Friday, December 11, 2009

Letter to President Obama

Some people say, writing letters, protesting, and forums of all sorts do no good. I can not stand by and not raise my voice in dissent to more war. This is not just a commitment to railing against wars started, continued or waged by governments, but it is a call for me and those I love to learn new ways to operate in the world. How do I let go of aggression, resentment, ego, sarcasm, fear, gossip as strategies? These are acts of war! True story. I say I'm against war, but I am not against talking shit about someone, defending MY position, making enemies, may times without conscious thought or a backward look. So, yes, waging material war and murdering and raping people and land is a gross form of aggressive warfare, but it is built upon smaller acts of aggression: discrimination, intolerance, superiority and other forms of power plays. So, I composed a letter, not the most eloquent, but full of my heart, to President Obama. I hope he reads it, I hope, I pray, I fervently want there to be room for us to solve problems without killing, without making money off of murder, without this having to be "the way it is" because someone with a lot of dough is talking in his ear about being "tough on terrorism." There is obviously more going on than I can ever know, but just because I like this guy and not the last one, doesn't mean I support war, this war, any war.

So, here it is:

Dear Mr. President:

I am extremely disappointed in your decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. While I whole-heartedly support the safe return of women and men who are in the battle zone, I also am afraid for the Afghan women, men and children who will continue to die at our hands, by your command. You said that America has never been a colonial power, (a lawerly equivocation sir), but we certainly are currently engaging in deadly imperialist tactics in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places in the world.

Why are we there? For Osama Bin Laden? Please. If we're there for oil, strategic position, or poppy, be more honest about that. Frankly, with unemployment reaching nearly 30% for some communities (Detroit), shouldn't the State of Emergency be sounding loudly for our own doomed economy?

I am one of your strongest supporters. As a act of love and conscience, I ask you to drop the smooth facade and truly lead us somewhere brave and enlightened, some place that does not follow the same script of greed, war, corporations, blind capitalism, crusading Christianity and xenophobic hatred.

Are you REALLY dedicated to making America a place of thoughtful leadership and citizenry? Or will you go down in history as another aborted dream, who crumbled to the will of those filled with lust for power and greed for resources?

I love you sir and your family.


Shante Tanishia Smalls

Friday, October 30, 2009

Pre-Halloween Annoucement

Hey all you nerd balls who like to plan ahead, check this out:

The program is as follows: The Social Text Collective cordially invites you to our

30th Anniversary Soirée

Friday, November 13, 2009
Philosophy Hall, Room 301
Columbia University
1150 Amsterdam Avenue

4:00 - 5:00 PM
Roundtable Discussion
Lisa Duggan
Jean Franco
Fred Moten
Gyan Prakash

5:30 - 7:30 PM

Please join us as we celebrate 30 years of Social Text, the recent publication of our 100th issue, and the launch of our new website>doesn't seem to be working yet.

Photo: "Reading Social Text 1 (North Amazon River Basin, Peru)" © Jorge Alberto Perez, 2009.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Yoga in the 'Hood

I've been a consistent yoga practitioner since 2004, when I started taking advantage of the cheap yoga classes offered to NYU students through their recreation program. It was affordable, convenient, and helped me re-build and re-shape my body after going through a number of surgeries. As time went on, I began to develop, what I like to call "yoga hunger,": wanting to go to class all the time, searching for the"best" teachers and studios, constantly wanting to do more challenging poses, basically pumping up my ego. After a few years of that, and a number of serious injuries, I made my way to the Integral Yoga Institute, where I learned to slow down and let go of some of that ego-enthusiasm.

At some point, I was introduced to Ellen Saltonstall, a certified Anusara teacher, by my bodyworker. Ellen has been my primary teacher for the last two years, and I've done Anusara and a bit of Iyengar, exclusively since 2007. Because they are both alignment-based, I've been able to sharpen my practice and also relax into it and not worry so much about looking "gorgeous," but really learn whatever it is I'm supposed to learn in that practice session.I've also been able to develop a strong home practice, however, in the last moth, I've really struggled with practicing at home. More often than not, I've done a truncated practice, or not practiced at all. And especially since my teacher is traveling to teach a lot this summer, I thought I'd better look around for some classes.

I really didn't want to go to the City. I've been becoming more and more interested in finding as many of the services I need right in my 'hood of Fort Greene (or nearby 'hoods: Clinton Hill, Bed-Stuy, Prospect Heights, Park Slope, or Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens/Brooklyn Heights). Farmer's Market on Saturdays, dog park every morning, my CSA is in the City, :(, local shops and restaurants, but what about a yoga studio? My main focus has been on finding Anusara studios, but there are none in my area and sometimes I don't want to get on a bus, train or walk to another part of Brooklyn. I recently had a conversation with a dog-park friend who alerted me to the incredible sale Move with Grace was having.

When I went in to sign up, Owner Grace Tappin, was friendly, warm, helpful and absolutely welcoming. I gave her my $30 for 30 days unlimited classes(!!!) and returned that night for an Open Vinyasa class. Let me preface by saying, I am not a fan of Vinyasa classes, nor am I a fan of using music in a yoga class. However, the small studio itself was clean, beautiful and very relaxed and relaxing. It was an incredible experience to take a yoga class of all black women (save the teacher, who was white), when usually I am the only one in the class. Moreover, I am supporting the local economy, reducing my carbon footprint, actually doing yoga, and supporting a young, black, female entrepreneur. Wins all around!

I'm looking forward to taking the Iyengar class on Sundays and the new Iyengar classes Grace let me know they will be adding. For me, since I have some injuries, alignment-based yoga is the best, and it fits my style, but it was nice to feel invigorated by last night's class, even if that will not be my regular practice. Move with Grace has a wide variety of classes (if not yoga styles) and other types of movement classes, such as Ballet for Adults and Belly dancing! Fun!

I also think I've been infected by the fallacy that only the City has good studios. This is particularly false when many of the great and good teachers training or being trained live in Brooklyn. As my schedule changes significantly in the fall, it will be good to be able to pop down the street, pay $10 for a class, and walk home and cook dinner. So, if you live in Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, or Bed-Stuy, you should check out Move with Grace. They also give discounts to college and university students and money off class packages if you sign up online.

If anyone knows any studios that offer Anusara or Iyengar classes in the FG/CH/BS area, let me know.

Holla! and Namaste.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Dyke of Beauty

I've been thinking a lot about my relationship to beauty--specifically beautiful women. It's been a bit of an experiment, really. As I've been easing back into the dating world these last six months or so, I've noticed my responses to women who find me attractive, or vice versa, seem stuck somewhere in awkward adolescence. It's made me curious about the "oh gosh darn it miss" vibe I sometimes give off, as well as how beauty is determined from the vantage point of a woman who loves woman.

Scene 1: We're in the club, some great summer banger is playing, maybe "No Letting Go," most likely, "Boom Boom Pow" and you know how the gays do, one hand up in the air, sexy hips shaking, a little peek of the hip bones...nice. So a fly Nicaraguan shortie approaches me, kicks a bit of game and I am smiling, whispering in her ear, letting her hands slide down to grasps each hip, encouraging her to explore...but of course, I'm looking at the other ladies, feeling there is something missing, something more, someone who when I see her, I will know...

The next day I reflected on my tension and lack of casualness at the West Village/Chelsea club. It's not like I really think I will meet the love of my life out at the club, but there's a certain level of posturing and manufactured desire that nightclubs are designed to produce. and silly, sometimes adolescent me falls for it.

Scene 2: I'm walking down Myrtle Avenue, on my way to the organic health food store and an older West Indian gentleman stops me to tell me how fine and chocolate-y I am. He relates, in his gorgeous, lilting accent, how he told his friend I ride a bike to "look as fine and sexy as ya do." I told him, "no, I do yoga," and we proceeded to talk about his daughter's (who is older than me!) yoga studio in the 'hood. He was delightful, we speak every time we see one another, and I felt really happy about our interaction.

It took me a long time to relate to compliments and attention from men. Sometimes I was intimated, sometimes I would be enraged or feel oppressed, other times, I was simply baffled ("can't they see how GAY I am??"), and still other times, I manipulated and lead them on in order to feel good about myself--in order to feel confident with women. Now, I feel grateful. Physical beauty is a gift. I know being someone who is considered attractive makes my life easier. I know my ability to pass makes my life easier. I am no longer so arrogant or ungrateful as to dismiss genuine attempts to be kind to me, or get my attention, or to be seen by me. I know what it feels like to want to be seen and I know how to handle dudes who get out of line.

I was never the pretty one in elementary, middle or high school. It wasn't until college that I really came into my own. As a matter of fact, It wasn't until I started experimenting with my gender presentation that I started to feel "beautiful." I'm not sure how that worked, but somehow, when I wore my ridiculously large JNCO jeans and skater sneakers, schoolboy sweater and matching Giants cap, I felt beautiful. I also felt protected. My body wasn't on display, yet it was in a way. I was alluding to what was underneath through an unisex fashion sense. At that time, I identified as a "girl fag," feeling like my femininity was exaggerated, playful, fierce and diva-like, just like the gay men who I loved growing up had taught me. But I didn't feel my femininity was embodied, and certainly not biological.

Lately, I've been playing with drag: One day I was doing high femme diva bitch during the summer (let me tell you, I was hit on by some strange parts of the NYC demographic); next was schoolboy realness (omg! I was so cute with my backpack, khaki shorts, polo shirt and glasses); and lately I've been feeling sporty femme 80's retro--big high tops, fat laces, neon colors, tight jeans and tight shirts. There is something being liberated in me that I haven't totally formulated or conceptualized, I am simply experiencing it with a tremendous amount of excitement and energy. being queer for me, has always been incredibly complex, but it's always been honest. I feel as though, for a time, I moved away from being queerly fierce, as though there was something juvenile about that, something undignified and regressive. I've found that my queerness thrives mostly when I am free to experiment with how I want to be in the world, when I am not blindly falling into the trappings of hetero- or homonormativity.

So, I'm just observing: how am I when I'm kicking it to women? Is my confidence or sense or worth swayed by who's interested in me? Am I really that shallow? I have to say though, I'm having the more genuine fun then I've had in years.

Femme Diva

school boy realness

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Cost of Health

So, I'm no healthcare expert. Nor do I understand why it's a big deal for everyone to have basic health coverage (and even gasp! have the government help foot the bill). However, my own experiences with navigating the world of doctors, insurance companies and prescriptions has left me realizing it's a full time job to manage one's healthcare.

As a graduate student, I am afforded insurance, so I don't have to get married or get another job in order to have health insurance. As someone with a pre-existing condition, this is key. well color me broke when I realized my prescription benefits had been cut from $3500 to $2000. I went to the pharmacy and was told I would have to shell out $300+ a month for my 30 dang pills. Well. Of course I freaked out. After calling the insurance and the pharmacy, I called student health and a wonderful woman gave me a plethora of resources to check on free or reduced medication.

Many of the programs are for low-income, poor, or working-poor families. I only looked at the ones that were free, not the paid services that "found" free programs. At any rate. I applied for a few but was denied because I did have coverage or I made too much money. Yet I found one, Xubex that helped me find the appropriate programs for which to apply.

I got a free 30 day supply and will be able to order a 90 day supply for $40 ( i was paying $25/mo under my student insurance). Come August 22, I'll have my coverage again, but I wonder just how many people go through these types of struggles? I wanted to share a little bit of information if it could be of benefit.

Some helpful resources:
Pfizer Friends

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Valiumtimes Day!!

Today, I was talking with a friend about loneliness. Not the type of loneliness that leads to blog writing on a Friday night *ahem*, but that existential loneliness that creeps up temps a temps to smack one upset the head. The kind of loneliness that Valentine's Day seems to have been created to eradicate.

I know, I know, call me a cynic (ah, ah, ah, I am healing from that condition), but doesn't it strike you as a mite bit suspicious that smack-dab in the middle of winter
(no matter how unseasonably warm it's been), we celebrate this thing called Valentine's Day? Oh, I get it, sure, I'll buy some jerk-off some cards, candy or $700 boots, only to have them lie, cheat and be an all-around a-hole? yeah, that sounds good...bitter: they name is woman.

Beyond that, we're in like, an economic crisis or something, but love will save the day, right? Right? RIGHT?????!!! At least, for a day. Possibly maybe. Probably not. But back to this loneliness. It's possible to feel this loneliness, or longing, that has noting to do with Eros, with romantic love, and still be incredibly content, happy and joyous. I'm one of those people for whom romantic love has always been the pinnacle of existence. I lived, blinded by love, as it were.

I'm not hating. When people are in love and experiencing that true partnership with another human being, it's absolutely inspiring and lovely, In fact, the love extends beyond the partners to encompass everyone in the lives of the couple. I've been more desperate in love than I'd like to admit, yet, that feels like a kind of phase I had to encounter in order to see how much it really didn't work.

We certainly need more genuine love, loving-kindness, compassion, generosity and true care in the world. We don't need more rageful, jealous fits ending in violence, boy-meets-girl romances, lies, manipulation and co-dependent patsies in the world. It's hard to come by, this true love, which is extended to all without demand for anything back. Co-emergent with it is this existential loneliness, this knowledge that all the things I have or think I have cannot ease the ache, the longing.

Gratefully, humor provides much relief. Humor and really good music. In honor of both and of St. Valentine, I offer you these. Enjoy!

Teen Girl Squad

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Happy Five Years Shante

As of February 2009, I have been out of all cancer treatments for 5 years. I know I have been celebrating this 5 year anniversary for months, but here's the breakdown:

September 3, 2008-5 year anniversary of my diagnosis
October 1, 2008- 5 year anniversary of my mastectomy
February 1, 2009- 5 year anniversary of end of chemo

So all of my treatment is done and it's been 5 years, uhh, what does that mean?
It's the 5 year survival rate. I had Stage 1 breast cancer, so I have good odds of not kicking the bucket for a while due to cancer. I am a very, very, very blessed and lucky woman. I don't talk much about my cancer because it's become this very present reality to me, almost like a friend, a mundane reality...not that I don't take it seriously, or even get scurred sometimes, but it doesn't rule my life, nor do I live in fear of my death.

So to honor my survival and thriving, a poem:

A few pounds of flesh
taken for granted.
Mouths that caressed,
hands that teased,
fingers splayed on brownness.

I matured young, blood rushing from the space
between my legs at the tender age of eleven,
but the two hills of fat never quite grew.

I was proud of my body: slim, feline, strong.
It withstood the poisons of youthful chemistry,
the risks of promiscuity,
the trauma of neglect,
Arms like bands of steel,
legs small and muscled
a hidden, round jewel of a butt.

It was a day like any other; September, in fact.
A smile upon my face, first day of graduate school.
my nerves, popping, only a year married,
dreams of houses and children and vacations and lectures to give.
plans, designs, hopes, fears, all on 14th street and 8th avenue.

in a moment, he uttered "cancer."
like a whisper, like a curse.
the shock, slapping me, hot tears cascading
and he talks, not without compassion, but he talks and talks and talks
am i going to die? will it eat my flesh and leave me skeletal?
who will tell my wife? my parents? my brothers?
songs lyrics bounce around a lucid mind
mamma i wanna sing
but i must concentrate on how to save my life...

what can happen in 5 years?
a marriage dissolved
a degree earned only to pursue another
fall in love with her, and she leaves
two presidents. one, black, like me.
a dog or two.
saints of Tibet, vows taken, these are not to a woman. or any other person.
wars began, more lives lost.
many more friends and acquaintances touched by cellular overpopulation.
and a scar.

a scar that marks me, separates me.
makes me wonder if anyone could love me
and not be scared of my death, or her own.
a scar that i hid behind prosthetics and strategically placed clothing
until i said fuck it.
i'm asymmetrical in the most tragically comical way.

but on my wall hangs framed, pictures my dear friend took of me.
a day before the cutting, before i became an amputee.
in the light, near the world's most famous bridge
i look so young, beautiful, defiant, terrified, peaceful.

a tank top, eggplant.
locks that would fall out from chemo.
black jeans
a studded belt
silver bracelet glittering
and two breasts, one soon to part.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Requiem for W...Overture for O: Works of Conscience from 2000-2008

Requiem for W...Overture for O: Works of Conscience from 2000-2008

Hosted by Shanté Paradigm and featuring
Alexandra Beller, Tara Betts, Sabrina Chapadjiev, Drastic Measures,
Guta Hedewig, Remi Kanazi, Rachel Lane, Jesse Phillips-Fein,
Sapphire, Paul Singh, Spiritchild
& Gina Young

An alternative inauguration celebration, this evening honors how artists responded to the policies of the Bush Administration and encourages continued action for change. The pieces move beyond simply bashing President Bush and heralding President-elect Obama. Instead, they are intended to provide reflection on the past eight years, to foster discussion about how we survived and commemoration for those who didn’t, to create a space for critical thought about the role of artists in activism, and to distribute information about how to become involved in local organizations that are working on issues of social justice.

Friday & Saturday, January 23rd & 24th, 2009, 8 PM
BRICstudio 57 Rockwell Pl between Fulton & DeKalb, Brooklyn
Tickets: $15 Cash Only
Reservations: 718-228-7151 or

More info at

Endorsed by Brooklyn For Peace

Monday, January 05, 2009

The Value of Friendship

So far, so good. 2009 rocks! I doubt the year knows that it rocks, but in my silly, giddy opinion, the first 5 days of 200nizzle have been excellent so far. A couple of days ago I was reflecting on how I spent last New Year's Eve Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day--it was totally wonderful and beautiful and appropriate. When I look back at 2008, the year really reflected how I spent the last day of '07 and the first day of '08: with friends, in my various spiritual committees, with a dog (although a different one than my current), enjoying NYC, eating well, and giving myself appropriate and loving self-care. For some people, this may seem totally boring, but for this-here Libra, it was nothing short of miraculous!

Anywho, if 2008 was a year of tremendous growth, change and self-reflective "gettin' my mind right," 2009 seems to be the year of enjoying the fruits of my labor as well as digging deeper into those scary places.

I've just spent the last 6 days in sunny, warm SoFla hanging out in West Palm, Palm Beach, Lantana and Hollywood (as in Squares, not Tinseltown). I spent time with two of my closest friends in the world, Kanye and Martha. Kanye's name is really another name, but I refuse to say her name as she wants me to call her by the name her mama gave her and I've known her looooooo these many years as her nickname. Thus, we reach the logical conclusion of calling her Kanye. There is something incredibly powerful about spending time with people who've witnessed you through all kinds of growth: I've known Kanye and Martha since I was 17 and I am so not 17 any longer (thank the pan-dieties)! But we've seen it all: graduation from college, horrible and great relationships, marriages, moves, career changes, degrees, illness, crack-headed decisions, crazy-ass shit with our parents, sibling drama and celebrations...everything that life touches, we've been through together.

A few years ago, we started getting together in NY or Florida, at least once a year. Kanye and Martha live in SoFla and I live in NYC, but they both have family in NY State and we get to be together once a year to talk about what;'s occurred in the past year, what we are currently challenged by, and our aspirations for the future. These gatherings are affirming, filled with laughter and vital to our spiritual, emotional, mental and psychic lives.

I feel incredibly grateful to have such loving friendships. Just a few days into the year, and I already have plans with a host of well-loved friends (and plans for serious snuggle-time with the Shorty when she gets back to NYC). It's such a good, simple loving life I have and I am happy I finally really appreciate it.

Happy 2009 ya'll!!